It’s dangerous, of course, to impose any mode of thinking on Jesus. It is his mode of thinking that should be imposed on us.
I suppose it is doubly dangerous when talking about business models.
But in following up on my earlier blog on situational leadership, I want to offer some reflections from Rich Lamb, a longtime InterVarsity Christian Fellowship leader and IVP author, on how Jesus changed the way he worked with his disciples over the course of his three years with them.
When Jesus begins his ministry, he is very directive with them. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:17). They have a choice to do what he says or not.
By the time we get to Mark 1:35-38, the disciples have watched him drive out evil spirits and heal people (including Peter’s mother-in-law). He is inviting them into his work a bit more. But he isn’t taking directions from Peter, who indirectly (unusual for Peter) suggests that Jesus needs to go back to Capernaum and take advantage of the huge popularity he’s achieved. Jesus still has his own plans and priorities and says they are going to other towns instead.
As Jesus’ ministry continues, he tells the disciples even more about his strategy. They’ve been given the secret of the kingdom while others get parables (Mark 4:10-13). In addition, he coaches them on how they can learn even more about his plans and purposes. They are to listen carefully and use what they already have to gain even more understanding (Mark 4:24-25).
Later Jesus gives them a brief assignment–a short ministry trip. He gives them very detailed instructions (go in pairs, take no bread, bag or money, etc.) but he doesn’t go with them. He doesn’t hover over them to correct or instruct at each point along the way. They are out on their own to fail or succeed as they are able (Mark 6:6-13). But Jesus does not totally bow out of their work. He is still involved, for afterward “the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30). So he is still there to review with them what happened, make comment and give encouragement.
By the time of his ascension, Jesus has prepared them fully, and he is ready to turn over the work of the church to them completely. They have been fully trained in the work, and the responsibility for making decisions and carrying them out is theirs. The job of multiplying is no longer his alone. He has passed it on to others using the methods of teaching and ministry that he has shown them. Even so, he has not abandoned them. He is with them “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus’ purposes, Rich Lamb points out, remain constant throughout the entire process of training. But he changes his methods toward them over time. The model is one worth emulating for supervisors and other leaders, giving more and more responsibility, and less and less detailed instruction, as the people we manage grow in their ability and willingness to take on the tasks.